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Atheists and religious traditions

November 24th, 2016

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Thanksgiving can have different meanings for different people, but probably the two main emphases are a day for family to get together, and a day to thank God for his many blessings to us.

So what does a conscientious atheist do? Should she just shut up and join in? Might he spoil the family occasion if he refuses to join in a prayer of thanks? How can they be honest yet not disrupt the family occasion? (Christmas and Easter may present similar difficulties.)

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Light at the end of the tunnel for some of the world’s poorest people

May 2nd, 2016

Bithi started work in a Bangladeshi clothing factory when she was 12. Abject poverty and a sick father forced Bithi’s family to send the two oldest daughters to the garment factories to sew designer clothes sold mainly in North America. It was either that, or watch the girls slowly starve.

Now 15, Bithi helps create a minimum of 480 pair of designer jeans every day, sewing 60 pockets an hour. For this, she earns about $1 US a day.

If that shocks you, makes you angry, or even makes you cry, that is an appropriate response. But at last there is a glimmer of hope for girls like Bithi.

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7 facts about religion and terrorism

December 6th, 2015

Terrorism is on many people’s minds at the moment, and many connect it with religion.

Several years ago I wrote a page on this website about religion and terrorism, and it is one of the pages I have had to update most often, because of new understandings.

I have just updated it again, with new material from researchers and commentators. It leads me to 7 facts about terrorism and religion.

I believe killing is ugly and wrong in almost every case, and so I believe that terrorism is evil. But it is committed by people who have similar DNA to ours, and it is best we understand them as well as we can.

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No more! No more!

March 31st, 2015

U2 on the Rattle and Hum tour way back in 1987, sang their old song Sunday Bloody Sunday, in response to an IRA bombing.

It’s long been one of my favourite pieces of concert footage as Bono, outraged by the killing, emotes on stage, while the Edge, ever the steady rock around which the band moves, plays jagged, anguished chords.

Fortunately, the troubles are now mostly a thing of the past, but this video reminds us of what made this band great, and how we should all feel about the taking of human life (even if we can’t express it so well!).

Well worth a look, or another look. But if you’re sensitive, Bono does utter one (understandable) expletive.

How much did your T-shirt cost?

October 20th, 2013

T Shirt

Aussies wear T-shirts. We wear them at the beach, or around the house, or under a shirt when we go out. So we buy lots of them. And we like to pick up a bargain.

And we’re not alone – T-shirts seem to be popular all over the world.

So how much did your last T-shirt cost?

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Two films about Australia’s boat refugees

June 20th, 2013

Villawood detention centre

Persecution and death threats in their home countries lead many Afghanis, Sri Lankans and others to seek to enter Australia as refugees. Many attempt the often perilous journey to Australia by crowded boat. Many die in the attempt, but most are found to be genuine refugees.

We can assimilate these people without too much difficulty, though there must be practical limits. However the political situation in Australia, fanned by rabid right wing media, has often turned public opinion against these refugees.

But there is a human side to the story.

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A better way

May 30th, 2013

York mosque

It’s a feel-good story that’s been doing the rounds, but it bears repeating. A potentially nasty situation defused by a simple act of friendliness.

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